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HUSAYBAH, IRAQ: A new batch of Iraqi troops rotated into service at Battle Position Beirut as the last group was heading out on leave. The Iraqi soldiers are an extremely friendly bunch and very interested in getting to know you. Several of the soldiers spoke English, and served as translators for the groups who came by to say hello. All were extremely interested in the satellite connection and accessing the Internet from such a remote location. Looks of wonder appeared on their faces as they repeated “Internet? Internet!” To be fair, many of the Marines expressed amazement as well.

We exchanged stories and discussed our families. They noticed the picture of my daughter on the open Instant Messenger window, and asked for more. I shared photographs of my family, which brought forth smiles and hearty claps on the back. Many of the soldiers are married and have children, and expressed that they missed their families as well. This is a universal bond all soldiers share.

Their backgrounds varied. The men were from age 18 to 43, and came from all corners of the country. Mohammed is from Najaf, Ahmed is from Mosul, Hussein is from Hit. They came from Basra, Baghdad, Haditha, and small towns across Iraqi which I was unfamiliar. They are Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

During the day, a public works crew from Husaybah requested to repair a water line running from the water tower through Beirut, and was permitted access to the post. The line needed to be dug up, and U.S. And Iraqi soldiers shouldered picks and shovels, and began digging, side by side. The problem was discovered, and the repair was put off until the next day. If fixed, this will gain some good will from the residents of Husaybah.

While the work crew worked, a rocket, or mortar, or RPG, or some other explosive was detonated in the far east of the city. We heard the clap and saw the smoke plume rise. The cause of the explosion was never determined, and no civilian or military casualties were reported. There were no further incidents throughout the day. A hot meal was brought for dinner, and U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers joined the line together, and sat an ate on the train platform in small groups.

The Marines of 1st Platoon of Lima Company have varied opinions of the Iraqi soldiers, which range from unimpressed to pleasantly surprised at their courage and fighting abilities. Several explained how Iraqi troops saved their hides during Operation Steel Curtain, when the Iraqis identified a home the Marines were going to enter as being rigged with IEDs. When Explosive Ordnance Disposal arrived on scene and detonated the device, the entire house was destroyed in the blast. “Most of our squad would have been killed in that house. They saved my and my friends’ lives that day” said Lance Corporal Mendoza.

The Marines have worked with several groups of Iraqi troops, they’ll tell you there are good soldiers and bad soldiers, and some units are better than others. This is the story of all armies. The words of respect, coming from these Marines who have set high standards for performance, gives hope for the future of the Iraqi Army.

Feedback

"A new batch of Iraqi troops rotated into service at Battle Position Beirut"

Are you allowed to tell us which Iraqi this is?

Fine reporting, Bill.
" All were extremely interested in the satellite connection and accessing the Internet from such a remote location."

I'll bet a number of your readers are equally interested. I know I am. If you can get around to it and find the time, could you give us some "this is how I do it?"

Call it part of the story of how a citizen does New Media.

Best Regards,

Dan Cameron Rodill (gringoman)

Thanks Bill, Keep up the good work. You're amazing.

Multi ethnic Iraqi units. Great news.

Bill,
Once again this stuff is pure gold! Many of us in the office are checking the site for your latest reports on a regular basis and many of us are sending prayers your way as well. More and more folks ask for the blog URL every day. I am extremely proud of you, my courageous friend.
Bro

Last two posts were good. Information like you are reporting is not available in western media. Keep up the good work. Stay safe.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

It would be kinda interesting see what the Marines would have to say about this, for example:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1134774,00.html

(I like to call this "Seagull Journalism":
Fly in, stay a short time, crap on everything, then fly out.)

Bill, very good stuff. Setting up the Iraqi Army and other indigenous security forces (police, border guards, etc.) is essential to having an independent and stable Iraq. Let us know as much as you can about the progress on this front. I am especially curious about how Iraqi units are performing where they have taken operational control of an area.

Are they honest? Are they adhering to their training and establishing/maintaining true esprit de corps once they are on their own? Stay safe.

"Several explained how Iraqi troops saved their hides during Operation Steel Curtain, when the Iraqis identified a home the Marines were going to enter as being rigged with IEDs."

I can speak only for myself, but I would hope other Americans share this sentiment: Please convey to the Iraqis my pride in their development as soldiers and warriors. I am proud of them for the defense of their nation they are increasingly getting better at. I thank them, too, for helping protect the lives of our guys there.

bgj, well said.

"Their backgrounds varied. The men were from age 18 to 43, and came from all corners of the country. They are Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds".

It is good to hear that with some time, perseverance and will, these factions have a good chance at living together in one country in peace and harmony.

You would never know that progress is being made with the everyday Iraqis by watching the mass media.

Great job Bill!
Hurry up and come home.

They are Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

Another tidbit that is so revealing. How many times have I read that Sunnis have volunteered as Freedom Fighters for Iraq?

Not once until I read this.

Thanks again for your excellent work. Stay safe & God bless.

Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds fighting the insurgency together! I recently read the Iraqi Army is mostly Shiite and Kurds and there is a civil war going on.

I was thinking of all the Iraqi Army recruits who were killed but it didn't stop others from joining the Army. Thanks to your reporting, others can read and understand there is hope for the Iraqi people.

What's the status on pictures? I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we might be able to see photos with some of your articles also.

Thanks to your Fourth Rail we have a clear understanding of the strategy in western Iraq. Now you give us the chance to see that strategy at work close up. That's a privilege. Funny how the reporting of ordinary events informed by an understanding of the larger picture make far better reading than endless accounts of the latest bomb and by the way a US Soldier was killed 300 miles away bringing the total to.....

Stay safe and God bless
Lorenz Gude, Perth Western Australia

Thank you, Bill. You are doing a great job over there.

Exactly right, lgude.

Great reporting. Thanks for your service. We need to hear more. BTW, Jarheads never have much praise for soldiers from any country including ours.

They think that they are the best and everyone is measured against them.

Its tough to measure up.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

Another great post. Info like this is really fantastic - you don't get anything like this in the mainstream media. Keep it up!

Bill
SF, CA

Big News
-----------------

Marines and tribal leaders reached an agreement: Anbar's elders would come up with a plan that would satisfy U.S. conditions for security and allow U.S. troops to pull out of Ramadi, and Williams would try to pitch it to Baghdad. Despite the disconnect, both sides had gotten across enough of their points to satisfy, at least to a degree.

"It may work," said one Hussein-era army commander, identifying himself as Gen. Sant-Rawi, standing up to go, just before the day's seventh mortar round landed outside.

http://tinylink.com/?oOVKHgLH9n

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5031523

Bill,

Let me second the gentleman who suggested that you divulge more info on the computer setup you are using.

People will definitely be interested in the technology that is allowing you to report to us from deep in the heart of Iraq. Especially geeks like myself, who are in similar places with little or no modern communications infrastructure.

Very interesting post, Bill. Thanks.

I am also at least as curious to know your Internet setup. How big is the thing and what does it cost to subscribe and bandwidth/connection charges? What is the connection speed?

Would any of the Iraqi soldiers care to post a message for us here? They may want to know that they have all sorts of fans throughout the States and Canada, wishing them well.

Can't wait for the next dispatch.

Bill,

Super reporting. Thanks for your courage.

MrReg

i detect a slight improvement in the tv reports lately-- which is coincindental with better administration pr. many people around here acknowledge that the mainstream media is excessively biased. joe lieberman wrote very supportive article regarding the strategy in wsj yesterday. your on site reports provide real life examples of the strategy at work and help balance the biased, defeatist, cut and run, appeasement media. they still don't get the strategy and never will--they lack your imajination, guts and motivation. they are clearly ignorant of history and geography. your reporting is really needed. take care.

This is facinating. Thanks to everyone for your comments.

Greetings Bill,
We will have to wait till you get back to take up our Saferkidz discussions. I am so grateful for your reporting, I agree with those who have commented on the role of the MSM, you would think they would be somewhat ashamed to be considered a "force Multiplier" by head choppers. I can only hope they will start telling the truth in an effort to retain some credibility while we win in Iraq. They cannot keep this fact a secret forever.
You are in our prayers,
Lawrence

Bill R,
Great human interest story from the war front. It's good to also hear about the teamwork effort clearly being demonstrated there.
Bill M

Bill,

Starting Jan. 17th, I will be teaching a Sociology of War class. As part of the learning & grading process, I would like the students to get involved in a blog. The Philadelphia Inquirer, on 11-23-05 ran a commentary regarding your blog. Is it possible to have the students communicate with you and/or the troops and ask them questions, etc. in which they would have to present to the class?

Scott Davis
Saint Joseph's University
scott.davis@sju.edu